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Largest Poker Room in Florida Opens Today

10:40 AM, Mar 1, 2012   |    comments
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- They're placing their bets.

The largest poker room in the state opens on the First Coast on Monument Road today.

It is the first in Florida to operate away from a track.

"I don't think there's a place in this building you can sit where you can't see a TV," said Deborah Giardina, executive director of poker operations for BestBet.

BestBet is Jacksonville Greyhound Racing's third and newest location.

Rod Sullivan with Florida Coastal School of Law represented casino boat operators for several years.

He said although gambling is illegal in Florida, a specific statute allows poker rooms tied to pari-mutuel facilities to operate away from the tracks.

"This was drafted to apply to a very few number of pari-mutuel license holders and nobody else," Sullivan explained.

Another requirement is simulcasting races.

"What they do have to have is a certain number of races offered in the course of a year, and I believe the number is 140 racing days," Sullivan said. "So if they have 140 racing days that they're simulcasting at the facility, then they're legal."

Giardina could not confirm the number of races on a full race ticket.

The Regency BestBet location will employ 200 people, according to Giardina, who said the jobs are helping families.

"Many of the families who have been out of work so they can buy shoes and clothes and food and provide a better education for their children because they are working here," she said.

But city councilman for that district, Clay Yarborough, is still concerned.

"We didn't think it was good for the area, we don't think it would be a good impact on Arlington and the mall," Yarborough said.

The Department of Business and Professional Regulation approved the new poker room back in August.

Today at 10 a.m. the tables will be open and the first cards shuffled.  For a peek inside, watch the videos or visit the company's website.

First Coast News

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